Are electric cars on a road to nowhere? | Letters

Readers respond to George Monbiot’s warning that electric vehicles are not the solution to the UK’s pollution and transport problems

George Monbiot’s article (Electric cars won’t solve our pollution problems – Britain needs a total transport rethink, 23 September) is spot on. As a retired architect and urban designer, I was particularly taken by the last section where Monbiot states: “Fundamentally this is not a vehicle problem but an urban design problem.”

His account of the “15-minute city” being carried out by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is the way all big cities should go. By re-localising and bringing together all the workers and residents in each neighbourhood, with their own commons at the centre and weekly assembly meetings practising participatory democracy, big steps can be taken towards implementing the kind of circular economics, with zero waste, that the world so urgently needs.

Separating pedestrian from vehicular traffic is a basic requirement. One way this can be achieved is using main bus routes to define new communities. Within that border selected roads can be made traffic-free in such a way as allows all within the boundary to reach the central commons without encountering a single car, truck or bus.
David Dobereiner
(Author of The End of the Street: Sustainable Growth within Natural Limits), Newcastle upon Tyne

• George Monbiot quite correctly refers to cycling as a means of addressing the climate crisis while also improving personal health.

A key impediment is the safety factor. Data from the latest National Travel Attitudes Survey shows that “over two-thirds of the population consider the roads ‘too dangerous to cycle’”. Lessons should be learned from mainland Europe (as ever) where in Germany, for example, enforcement via the legal and cultural framework puts the safety of cycle users on the highway to the fore.
Robin Bevis
Okehampton, Devon

• George Monbiot is right that electric vehicles will not solve congestion, improve air quality or tackle inequality in our towns and cities. That is because walking, our oldest, cheapest and greenest transport – has not received the same investment as other forms of transport.

We are, however, about to experience a step-change. The need for social distancing has led to pop-up pavements and cycle lanes, the closing of rat runs and the creation of safer streets around schools. With the government’s proposed £2bn investment in walking and cycling, possible changes to the Highway Code to put people at the top of the transport hierarchy and the prospect of a ban on pavement parking in England, we have an opportunity to achieve cleaner air, better health and friendlier neighbourhoods.
Mary Creagh
Chief executive, Living Streets

• Having tried to argue that overpopulation does not contribute to climate change (Opinion, 26 August), George Monbiot now claims that electric vehicles (EVs) are not a key component of our future transport needs.

I have no problem with localism, cycling and e-scooters, but not everyone in the community is fit enough to cycle, or strong enough to carry heavy shopping. For those based in rural locations with non-existent public transport, EVs may be the only clean option available.

It is true that small particulates will still be generated from wear and tear on tyres and brakes, but this can be minimised by regenerative braking and improved tyre production. Furthermore, it is almost certainly the case that exhaust emissions are more dangerous from a medical perspective.

If the government brings forward the phase-out date for fossil fuel vehicles to 2030, it will benefit both air quality and the environment, and it is perverse to pretend otherwise.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Scientific adviser to the all-party parliamentary group on air pollution

• One point George Monbiot missed is how the electricity used to charge cars is generated. If a motorist charges his car on a Wednesday evening, almost 60% of that electricity is coming from gas and coal generation.
Angus Murray
Lancaster

Letters

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Electric cars are not perfect, but they are a good start | Letters
Letters: The use of lithium in rechargeable vehicle batteries is problematic but this shouldn’t derail attempts to decarbonise our environment, writes Jamie Adam, while Jim Grozier believes we need infrastructure that discourages car use

Letters

13, Dec, 2020 @5:55 PM

Article image
With political will, we could easily solve our transport problems | Letters
Letters: Readers share their thoughts on electricity generation, cars, cycling, trains and garden cities

Letters

04, Aug, 2017 @5:22 PM

Article image
Going car-less in the country can be hard | Letters
Letters: City-dwellers don’t face the public transport problems experienced in the country, say Tricia Knott and Susie Medley. Plus letters from Michael Cunningham, Cllr Wesley Harcourt on charging points for electric vehicles, and Bob Caldwell on cycling on roads full of potholes

Letters

15, Mar, 2019 @4:11 PM

Article image
Market forces can’t drive uptake of electric cars | Letters
Letters: Sam Wollaston’s account of his electric car journey highlights the lack of a proper EV strategy, says Antony Watts. Plus letters from John Hooley, Janice Gupta Gwilliam and Daniel Scharf

Letters

29, Jul, 2021 @5:15 PM

Article image
Electric cars are not the only green solution | Letters
Letters: Chris Barker says more cars of any kind are bad news for pollution, while Dr Robin Russell-Jones believes British entrepreneurs can rise to the challenge of ‘green growth’

Letters

25, Jan, 2021 @4:46 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on electric cars: stopped by industry inaction | Editorial
Editorial: Ministers must accept that the market won’t deliver technological change on its own. They will need to get the state involved to meet environmental and social objectives

Editorial

12, Sep, 2018 @5:36 PM

Article image
Electric cars: the good, the bad and the costly | Letters
Letters: Green number plates to encourage the take-up of electric cars are welcomed by Stephen Smith, but Rachel White doubts whether electric vehicles are the answer. Plus letters from Dr Howard Mason and Fiona Howarth

Letters

23, Oct, 2019 @5:30 PM

Article image
UK may consider electric vehicle subsidy to increase cycling
Roads minister Jesse Norman says government could push councils to do more to fight pollution and inactive living

Peter Walker and Laura Laker

20, Oct, 2017 @2:28 PM

Article image
Electric cars go like clockwork for me | Brief letters
Brief letters: Nissan Leaf journey | Wind-up VW Beetle | Carlisle’s appeal to students | Dogs’ names | Letters threads combined

Letters

08, Aug, 2018 @5:06 PM

Article image
'E-highways' could slash UK road freight emissions, says study
System of overhead cables and adapted lorries could pay for itself within 15 years

Jasper Jolly

27, Jul, 2020 @5:00 AM